Kabul, Feb 22: In another case of civilian casualties, over 21 civilians in southern Afghanistan were killed in NATO air strike, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Monday, Feb 22.
Confirming the report in a statement, the NATO forces said that atleast 21 civilians were killed after planes were fired on a group of vehicles, which they believed carried insurgents, getting ready to attack the forces.
Ironically, the suspected insurgents turned out to be women and children.
"We are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives," NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in the statement. “I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people and inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission. We will redouble our effort to regain that trust."
NATO informed that the injured have been rushed to the hospitals by the troops.
McChrystal apologized to President Hamid Karzai for the incident on Sunday, NATO said.
However, along with declining to provide information on the death toll, NATO choose to remain silent on whether the passengers inside the vehicle consist only of civilians.
Meanwhile, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said 21 bodies have been collected so far by the investigators on the ground, while two people are missing.
He added that fourteen people were injured in the attack.
Both the Afghan government and NATO have ordered an investigation into the matter.
Despite the NATO's efforts to reduce the number of civilian casualties, which includes tightening the rules for air strikes, civilians continue to lose their lives in the NATO air strikes.
This grave mistake continue to dampen NATO's attempt to win the loyalty of the Afghan people over Taliban.
On Sunday, Feb 14,twelve Afghans civilians were killed as the NATO rockets missed target and hit a house in Marjah.